By James Bernard
Updated May 07, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

If there is any justice in the court of hip-hop music, so that those who pay their dues can expect to come out on top, then Down With the King will recapture Run-D.M.C.’s glory days. Rap’s first superstars have trimmed down, shaved their heads, found God, enlisted the most exciting production talent available, and graciously eased into their roles as elder statesmen. No small feats, but the rap world is notorious for its impatience with mere sentimentality. Yesterday’s undisputed heroes are often today’s joke fodder. Remember Kurtis Blow? UTFO? Hammer?

So Run, D.M.C., and Jam Master Jay had to regain their mantle the old- fashioned way: beat by beat and rhyme by rhyme. Musically they couldn’t really go wrong, having hired the likes of Q-Tip, the Bomb Squad’s Hank Shocklee, and EPMD to anchor the beats. This blessing is also a slight curse, since the very diverse and very distinctive touches of these superstar producers threaten to overwhelm the album, stealing the spotlight from Run-D.M.C. themselves. But no: The veteran rappers rule here, and it’s to their credit that they still manage to sound young, lean, and hungry after 10 years in the rap game. B